December Twenty Seventeen

December ended with my favorite week of the year. It begins Christmas night when I take the tree down. I love the feeling of a clean start, with the excitment of Christmas and the year behind me. And, we’re team real tree so it’s practically dead by Christmas and there are needles everywhere. I appreciate the fake tree cleanliness and ease, but I can’t let go of the real tree experience… the cold, early morning tree farm visit where we watch the kiddos get excited over finding the perfect tree. And then the hot chocolate or apple cider as Brian loads the tree on the car. Traditions. I can’t envision any excitment watching a box being pulled out of the garage. And then the thought of having to store a fake tree the rest of the year doesn’t work for me. I’ve already culled our Christmas decorations down to two storage boxes: one for ornaments and the other for the tree skirt, stockings, and whatever lights I keep. Which conflicts me because my mom went all out and it was lovely. There was garland on the staircase, Christmas decorations strategically placed throughout the house, and fake poinsettias everywhere. The rest of the year, the buffet in the dining room was filled with so much red, it was a bit much thinking back. She had a fake plant problem in general. Back in the Christopher Lowell days. She kicked the habit in the early 2000s thankfully. But not before she sent me to college with a few fake trees.

The tree down and out, the house back to normal… on to the week of cleaning out my mind and anything else before the new year starts. It’s mostly a week of nothing. I made no plans and didn’t really talk to many people. I take that back, I went to see Dina Martina with Karann on December 27. What a great night! She puts on a fabulous show. We’re going back for her spring show and although we’ve only been once, her Christmas show is now an annual tradition. The rest of the week I slept in until almost 9am each day, thanks to Brian for getting up with the kiddos and doing the morning thing. I must have been more exhausted than I felt because I was sleeping 10 hours on average. I actually slept until almost 9am each day the week before Christmas also. Brian is awesome. He understands my sleep determines my mood. We’re looking at 22 years here in the coming weeks… he knows me well.

It was during this week that I decided on my resolutions or changes or whatever they’re called for the next year. This probably sounds depressing but I want to become more hermit-like. I’m going to start saying no to things, and hanging out at home more, focusing on the kiddos more. I remember being at a friend’s house when her son was nine and she commented that he would still sit on her lap. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but now having kiddos who keep getting older, I know the day is coming where mom and dad are not hot stuff anymore. I want to milk this for now.

Having four in five years was chaotic. It’s all a blur and I can’t even count how many times I’d think, we should start fill in the blank with planned tradition like half-birthday half-cakes and then it would get pushed to next time. And then pushed again. Not bad chaotic but there were many days we just got by. And it could totally be that my memory is shot and we’ve done more than I think or feel we have. Which is completely possible given how many times I’ll suggest we watch a movie and Brian will say, “We’ve already watched it together,” and I’ll have zero recollection.

Now that we no longer have nappers—which means no schedule restrictions and the kiddos being older and easier—life can only get better. I want to embrace and enjoy these years before they become angsty teenagers. Which, I may be in the minority, but I love teenagers. I’m actually looking forward to the years when they know it all and push back, seeking independence. But they won’t want to sit on my lap anymore.

Twenty eighteen is basically going to be about me. I’m going to do what I want, and that is focusing on the family and myself. And to focus on myself, I want to hang out with me more, work on getting back in shape and mentally clearing out all the clutter in my head. Also, read more. I’m getting away from reading my daily news sites because, well, it’s depressing and makes me not like our country and people more and more. Fiction sounds much more appealing these days. Although if I were to read a book about what is going on these days, I’d think it was fiction.

During this week, I also took the opportunity to plan out 2018. I know that sounds obsessive but I’m a planner and I love the feeling of knowing what we’re doing when. It also helps allot Brian’s vacation time for the year, and coordinate with anything else involved in our plans, like school days and activities for the kiddos; family in California who we plan to visit; house sitters so the pups and cats are covered; and so forth (or so such as Dina Martina kept saying). Planning is my thing. It’s usually the follow-through I’m not so great about. Haha.

My humble bragging highlights coming in 2018, in order of appearance (and not at all hermit-like): Book of Mormon, snow tubing, Mamma Mia! (with Laine, our Abba fan), Great Wolf Lodge, Hands on Children’s Museum, Carmina Burana, Dina Martina spring show, Cannon Beach, family visiting for the kiddos’ dance recital, Olympia National Park, California to visit family, Legoland, another yurt weekend, and then all the fall and winter activities I do each year that aren’t announced yet, like David Sedaris, Seattle Men’s Chorus holiday concert, and now Dina Martina’s Christmas show… so much fun to look forward to. But in all honesty, when the time comes, I’ll say I’d rather stay home and think of ways to cancel, but I’ll still go anyway and be thankful I went and think how ridiculous it was I wanted to cancel. This is how I roll. And all that bragging (I’m nixing the humble part), mixed in with half-birthday half-cakes, which we will do this year, birthdays, and standard busy weekends with skiing, hiking, and so such, it’s going to be an amazing year.

By the end of the week, we were back into the swing of things with plans to go to our friend’s house Saturday where we played all afternoon and stayed for dinner. The kiddos had a busy day because they went to see Star Wars that night and didn’t make it home until 11:30pm. Sunday Laine had a riding lesson where she basically fell asleep on the horse… not really but she was riding aimlessly. It’s those moments I remember how much sleep she needs; she needs a solid 12 hours. Blaise can get by on nine hours. Laine is like me; the amount of sleep she gets determines her mood. She and I went out to lunch after horse and then hit Target since we needed diapers. Diapers for only ONE kid. What?! I hadn’t bought diapers for a few months, back when Saigers was still in them. These kids getting older is awesome.

Speaking of Saigers out of diapers—since she’s all I’m a big girl now—she asked to start preschool. And lucky for us, there was a rare opening. She started January 2 and is officially a preschooler now. She’ll attend outdoor preschool until fall 2020 when she’ll start whatever kind of schooling we’re doing then.

We ended the holiday break creating chaos. While the house was back to normal and order with all Christmas decorations and gifts put away after purging old toys, laundry baskets empty, dishes caught up, sheets all washed for the week and beds made, and even the pantry cleaned out, we decided to change things up in the house on the last day of the holiday break (technically January 1 but I’m calling it part of December). Two forms of chaos:

Garage. This kind of snowballed. Needed info: We have a four-car tandem garage. The plan is to clear out the back part and have a skate ramp custom built, taking up the entire back half. Which means we need to get a shed for the side of the house to store all the yard stuff. And the shelves in the back of the garage that hold the few bins we keep in there—like Christmas decorations—need to be cleared off and the bins moved elsewhere. Then there is the treadmill, it has to be moved from the back of the garage… we’re going to put it in the front of the garage and only park one car in there so everything can fit in the garage. So back, skate ramp; front, one car and the treadmill, extra refrigerator (because we buy five dozen eggs and four gallons of milk each week), and two shelves for tools and whatnot. Plan made. Problem, we have three cars to deal with at the moment and one has to be in the garage… when they replaced the windshield on the SUV, they blocked one of the drains. When it rains, water slowly leaks in the car. And then the Suburban we just bought doesn’t have to be parked in the garage but I’m a happier camper when it is. So really, it has to be parked in the garage. It’s easier to load and unload kiddos from the garage to the house than it is from the driveway to the front door. So as easy at is sounded to say, let’s put a skate ramp back there it has turned into quite the project.

Upstairs. I’ve been struggling with feeling our house is too big. Tough problem to have, I know. But we moved from a cozy, 1100sf townhouse to this massive (for us), 3400sf house. It’s no Candy Spelling house with a gift wrapping room; it’s probably the size of a bathroom to her. I feel sorry for Tori Spelling. She gets railed on for her lifestyle but I can’t imagine going from a life of unlimited money from birth to an adult cut off from everything. And to have your dad shower you with money and then when he dies, your mom stop everything. Who knows their mother-daughter relationship but that has to feel pretty awful knowing your dad liked you more. Granted, her life choices are questionable but still, I feel for her. Back to our measly house… I feel like we use the space only because it’s there. It’s not needed. Maybe when they’re teenagers it’ll feel smaller, who knows. But since we have the space, I’ve been trying to think of a better use of it all. We had Blaise in his own room with a loft bed and Lego collection; Laine in her own room with a bunk bed where she and Baby slept; and then Saige had her own room with a bunk bed… until we did musical beds and Saige slept in Laine’s room and Baby slept in Saige’s room. And Blaise ends up in our bed half the week. I’m having a hard time following myself.

Blaise is the only kiddo who actually plays in his room with the Legos galore and his desk where he likes to take things apart. I’m always finding random screws deep in his carpet. Anyway, I feel the bedrooms are wasted space for only sleeping and clothes storage. And then Brian had a brilliant idea. Before the brilliance, a brief overview: our upstairs has five bedrooms and a bonus room (master bedroom, three used for kiddos, and one as the guest room). One of the bedrooms is off the bonus room, which are both in the back of the house away from the main bedrooms. The bonus and fifth bedroom were an upgrade option when we built, which kind of explains why they’re separate from the others. The bonus room has been set up with a couch and bookshelves filled with books and a few toys, and the drums and piano are in there. It’s a space meant for the kiddos to play when I want them out of my hair downstairs. “Upstairs!” is all I have to say, usually with a finger pointing toward the bonus. The fifth bedroom is a guest room, also known as my bedroom on the nights I can’t deal with Brian’s snoring.

Brian’s brilliant idea: move all the kiddos into the bonus room and fifth bedroom section of the house. I was sold. We had just watched a Christmas movie with four boys who shared a room and Laine loved that idea, so she was easily sold also. Blaise protested because he likes his current room, but we pulled parenting rank and said we were moving him anyway. And then proceeded to bribe him with the prospect of a new Lego set. The bonus room is probably 20ft x 20ft so it’s a great size to house two sets of bunk beds, all their toys, and still have ample floor space. And since the fifth bedroom is off the bonus room, we’ll move Blaise in there. Rather, move his loft bed and Legos in there (he wants to sleep in the bonus room). And the fifth bedroom closet we’ll use to store all the kiddos’ clothes. So everything kiddo will be in one section of the house.

This opens up three bedrooms. Well, technically two since we’ll make Blaise’s old room the new guest/snoring escape room. Saige’s room will become the media room with a couch and TV in there, along with all the gaming devices. Laine’s room will become the catch-all room, which drives me crazy but its location is perfect because I can’t see in there walking around upstairs. It’ll have the drums, piano, and Brian will finally get his standing desk he’s always wanted. And since Laine’s former room has a walk-in closet, I will use that as storage for my bins that were in the garage and need a home.

It all sounds great and I’m anxious to get it all situated… it’s just going to take time and I’m not a fan of the waiting game. We have to have the bedrooms repainted because the current colors don’t work with the room changes; we need to get a door framed and installed at the entrance of the bonus room; and I need to find new bedding for the two sets of bunk beds. I’m sure there will be more stuff that pops up during the process. Chaos indeed. Back when I worked on deadlines, I’d always look forward to the day after the deadline because I knew I’d be finished and all the stress of the project would be gone. I’m trying to get into this mindset with the upstairs. I’d like to say in a week it’ll be all finished but I’m realistic, I’ll give it until March 31.

That was an unplanned ramble. Now, December in pictures.

CHRISTMAS 2017

Christmas brought on several questions this year. I should add, I start listening to Christmas music on October. I’m one of those people. By the time December rolled around, we had heard the same songs about a million times. Blaise and Laine started asking about the baby and Bethlehem, and why exactly Christmas exists. This was actually kind of fun to talk about. And their observations and more detailed questions were interesting.

We aren’t Christian… we only celebrate Christmas because it’s a fun holiday. And, it didn’t start as Christian thing anyway, not until they randomly picked a birthday for Jesus and took it over. But whatever. I’ll happily say Merry Christmas. I laugh because little did I know, my atheist-agnostic-secular humanist-whatever I am self was helping fight the war on Christmas by saying that. A war on Christmas. There’s another reason why I don’t love our country. Never mind health care for all or you know, basic shelter, let’s create a made up war to pit people against one another and create more division between citizens. And get upset over Starbucks cups?! I don’t understand why people get so enraged when their personal views are attacked. Like those who are boycotting the NFL because of the anthem kneeling. They place their own personal value on the flag and expect others to view it the same way. And the whole NFL protest isn’t even about the damn flag anyway. It’s probably one of the most peaceful protests ever and yet people are so mad because their personal flag views are attacked. Isn’t that one of the beauties of our country, that as Americans we have the right to protest? Just like those who are protesting the NFL have every right. And while I totally disagree with them, I fully support their right to protest. It goes both ways. I digress…

Kids are very insightful. They ask very articulate questions and crave answers. And while we aren’t religious, I’m all for everyone believing in whatever we need to get by in life. So when they ask questions, I try to answer them as direct as I can without any bias. I’m sure some bias comes out like with anything, but I do try my hardest to give them straight answers and then encourage them to decide for themselves what they want to believe. And also teach them to respect the beliefs of others because everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. And, also, nobody really knows, so technically nobody is right or wrong.

The questions flowed, the conversation was great, and the kiddos are figuring out life more and more. I’m loving them getting older so these conversations can happen. Granted, we probably talk more adult to them than is recommended, but my parents did this and I’m happy they did. Just this morning Blaise, Brian, and I were talking about the missing Argentine submarine and how the crew is likely dead… again with the insightful questions from him. We’re pretty open with most things. Maybe some heavy stuff but they’ll deal.

Christmas itself was great. The few days before, not so great. It was Friday and we were at the farm where the kiddos’ outdoor preschool is held. We wanted to get Saigers used to the property, and talk up school being exciting. All of a sudden I felt nauseous. We left for home. All Friday afternoon and Saturday I was down for the count. Saturday morning, Saige and Blaise were down. Laine, Baby, and Brian all had low-grade fevers but they avoided any nausea. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve night that we all felt back to normal. It was our earliest Christmas Eve finish ever, wrapping the last present by 9pm. I bought less this year and we wrapped in stages.

Christmas morning we woke up to snow. It was a beautiful White Christmas. Bing Crosby would have loved it. And good ol’ Irving, who obviously was very humble, was quoted saying, “White Christmas is not only the best song I ever wrote, it’s the best song anybody ever wrote.” I know this from the ridiculous amount of hours I have the Sounds of the Season music channel playing on the TV. They offer fun facts for each song/artist, including how one of the artists was hoping for a better Christmas 2017 because in 2016 his whole family was sick. His name is escaping me but he’s a new artist so his facts are sparse.

But the snow, awesome. I love when it snows any day. Christmas snow was an added bonus. I was up early on Christmas morning; I guess all my sleeping in caught me up. Melvin and I took a stroll around the block, enjoying the quiet of the morning before the excitment of the day.

The excitment started just after 7am when Blaise and Laine woke up. They quickly woke up Saige and Baby, who were both slightly confused but fed off of the excitment. We always make them sit at the top of the stairs before coming down for the obligatory Christmas morning picture, and so they all see everything at the same time. Down they came to the front room, which is mostly a pointless room aside from the month of December. It should be called the Christmas tree room. I’ll bet Candy has one of those, also.

We arrange gifts by kid, in stacks of presents all wrapped in the same wrapping paper. I’ve figured out over the years it’s easiest to assign one wrapping paper to each kiddo… I don’t have to label anything. They each found their respective stacks and went to town. And they all have their own unwrapping styles. Blaise shakes his gifts to find the Legos and then starts with them. Laine randomly picks presents. Saige opens one and wants to play with it before opening the next. Baby had a tool bench waiting for her that wasn’t wrapped so she couldn’t have cared less about the wrapped gifts. They sat unopened until the other kiddos were finished opening their gifts. Blaise and Laine were still on the Christmas high and needed to get an unwrapping fix; they opened the rest of Baby’s for her. She didn’t care. She had a tool bench. After all the gifts were opened, on to the family room for stockings. I’m not a very exciting stocking stuffer. They get things like bath paint or stuff they need like toothpaste… all disposable stuff. Blaise and Laine do one last inspection to make sure everything has been opened. It’s not until they’ve done this that they settle in and play with their loot.

I try and stick with the something you want, need, wear, read thing, with a few wants because it’s Christmas after all. This year I didn’t do so hot with that plan, but I didn’t buy that much. They each had nine presents to unwrap, but half of those were small things like a sketch pad or watercolor paints. I’m in a major I don’t want stuff phase that I’m imposing on the kiddos. Blaise scored with a Nintendo Switch (it’s good to have a friend who work at Nintendo). We told him early on he wasn’t getting any large Lego sets. We don’t do Santa so we’re open with what to expect… mostly with him, he’s one who doesn’t do well with surprises. He’s my kid. He’ll be that generational example in 20 years about how kids these days have unrealistic expectations or those parents who didn’t do the Santa thing screwed up their kids. It’ll always be something.

I can’t in good conscience do the Santa thing. It’s lying. Just like spanking is assault. You hit your spouse, assault. You hit your kid, totally okay?! Not that Santa and spanking are on the same level but parents like to label things with less aggressive words so they sound better. Santa is part of the magic of Christmas. Magic is a lovely word; it evokes happy feelings. The word lying does the opposite. I know people say Santa is harmless or whatever, and maybe it is. I’m not scarred or anything but I don’t appreciate how I felt after learning the truth. Brian didn’t have a bad experience as a kid but he didn’t want to do Santa either. It’s not really something we discussed as parents; we both didn’t want to do it so it was an easy parental call. Instead we talk about Santa being the spirit of giving, talk about the real Saint Nicholas. I like that much better than some dude giving gifts to nice kids—not naughty kids—and magical flying reindeer. And that creepy Elf on the Shelf spy… who we actually have, and while still creepy, not a spy for us. Blaise really enjoys the fun scenarios every morning. I’m too much of a realist to be able to lie to the kiddos anyway. I’m sure when they’re parents, they’ll be all my parents didn’t do Santa and I missed out so my kids will believe! And I’ll support them. But if they assault my grandkids, I’ll intervene.

My grandfather used to say, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, no matter how stupid they are.” This helps explain my mini-rants above in the Christmas section. Haha! I’m cool with self-reflection.

Laine didn’t get one big gift; she wanted several smaller things. She watches commercials and infomercials on YouTube. And then she’ll show me an ad and say, “But, mom, it comes with insert infomercial special.” I should call her Lainey Mayes. She made out with a pottery wheel, molding clay, Wonder Woman sword, a Hop ‘N Cuddle Bunny, and so such (I’m loving so such). She was happy with her stash.

All Saige wanted was a phone from Santa. Yes, from Santa. The Santa I just bitched about above. We still don’t do Santa for her but she has taken to him so we’re going with it. Rather, Blaise and Laine are going with it for her. So technically, we’re going with Blaise and Laine. We still talk about Santa representing the spirit of giving, and when Saige eventually asks questions, we’ll be honest.

Saige is the reason we went to see Santa at Redmond Town Center. She cozied up to him. I’m pretty sure she would go home with anyone. At the zoo one time, she walked up to some dad and grabbed his hand. She walked holding his hand to check out the farm area. And another time we were at a park and she climbed in some grandfather’s lap. Then there was that time we walked into a restaurant and she wrapped her arm around the man’s leg waiting in front of us. It’s not just random men; she like random women also. Everyone is a friend.

We were at Costco in early December and there was a Fisher Price three-toy package with a stacking thing, sorting thing, and phone. One of the “You want to get out of here, get rid of that monkey!” phones. Oh, Toy Story 3. I can rant about that also. Hell, why not. I’m on an opinionated, ranting roll. Note: remember opinions can be stupid, which is fitting given what I’m about to rant about. I can come to terms with my contradictions.

We stopped watching Pixar movies before Saige was born. I can’t deal with all the stupid and idiot name calling. The stories are mostly cute and well done, but there isn’t a need for the name calling. Call me a snowflake; another name calling word. This one is popular these days. Usually used by someone easily offended that someone else is offended about something. The irony. As an adult, it’s no big deal because these words are recognizable. But for kiddos watching and unaware, it normalizes it to call people these words. Then again, we have a president who can’t go an hour without using a derogatory word toward someone. See, I won’t even call him a derogatory word… and there are plenty to choose from. But name calling is representative of the person saying the word, not necessarily of the person being labeled. Although with him, the derogatory labels are most likely fitting… but I still won’t say them.

I talk the talk but at the end of the day, I still make mistakes. I’ve been known to slip and call someone an idiot. But I recognize this and work to avoid saying it again. And I’m clear about this when I say something in front of the kiddos. Empathy can go a long way. Instead of jumping to calling someone stupid, maybe imagine yourself in their situation and look at things from their view. And maybe they won’t seem stupid anymore.

So the phone, Saige got that and a few other small things. Baby got the tool bench and also a few other small things. None of the kiddos needed anything. The presents were mostly for Christmas morning sake. Blaise would have got a Switch anyway and Laine a pottery wheel. And any other month, I would have bought the phone and given it to Saige right away. She really wanted the phone. Brian made out with some trademark stripped sweaters and also some meat rubs. He finally put together the Traeger smoker he bought back in September. This is the first year I got exactly what I asked for: nothing. There is nothing I need or want, and when a want happens, I just buy it anyway.

Christmas day was perfect. We stayed home and did nothing special. There was some backyard snow play, a snowman built out front, and I did what I like to do best, I cleaned and organized. Brian smoked some Tri-Tip for dinner and we ended the evening watching The Christmas Project. Which happens to be the movie where four boys shared a room. It had a great message also, which was basically empathy. Brian took the kiddos up for baths while I undecked the halls. The kiddos were fast asleep from all the excitement, and Brian and I didn’t last much longer.

Another successful Christmas on the books.

Side note about the snowman, which is actually about penises: I’ve made it almost 39 years without any penis jokes made on me. At least none that I can recall. And then December, I was the recipient of two. Someone made our snowman a penis using a stick. And then one day when I went to open the back of the Suburban by hand, there was a penis—complete with two circles—drawn in the dirt on the car. Not nearly as big as the one drawn on Larry David’s car in Curb but it was admirable. Way to go, penis pranksters. Which are likely middle-aged men since penis jokes are still funny to them. And, I was amused. I can appreciate a well-placed penis. There’s one thing we didn’t tell the kiddos… we don’t want them worrying about their bodies being considered funny. All this penis talk makes me wonder when the kiddos will ask how the sperm gets in the woman. They know all about how babies are made but they haven’t asked about the logistics. We find this interesting.

Well, I guess I’m doing a much needed mental purge. Rambling away.

Before I wrap up Christmas day, snow jumpers:

DECEMBER PICTURES

Papa, Wawa, and Aunt Courtney visit. Brian’s dad and Tara usually come up twice a year. Once in June for the kiddos’ dance recital and then the first weekend in December. This time, Courtney came with. It’s always fun having family visit. We haven’t lived around family with kiddos and often wonder what it would be like. When they come visit, we get a little of that feeling and it’s nice. And while we think how great it would be to live near everyone, we then remind ourselves that in order for that to happen, we’d have to live around the Sacramento area. Nope. Even growing up, the only thing that was wonderful about the area was that you can get to San Fransisco or Lake Tahoe easily. I still feel the same. It’s flat and brown, too hot and sunny for my taste, and well, just not my thing anymore. I’m not sure it ever really was. I was eager to leave for college. I think if you grow up there and never leave, it seems wonderful. But if you leave, then you see the light. I shouldn’t knock it, it does have some lovely attributes… like being able to get to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe easily. Hahahaha. It’s no longer home. But we sure do wish we lived near family.

This was our third December in the house, and the third first weekend in December they came up. It’s become tradition that we get the Christmas tree with them. The past two years we went Saturday morning but the big kiddos had a birthday party to attend. A total PNW birthday party, outside in the rain. It was awesome. I love seeing kiddos playing outside no matter the weather. We had a great time partying in the rain. While we partied, Brian, the little ones, Bob, Tara, and Courtney went to Pike Place Market to meet one of Brian’s cousins who is in the military and stationed south of Seattle.

Saturday night Brian finally used his Traeger and smoked some meat. His dad has one also so Brian was able to get a nice tutorial. After dinner, the kiddos opened their big gifts from Papa and Wawa. Baby discovered selfies for the first time. She was quite amused.

Sunday morning we made it over to the tree farm. it’s crazy to think this was our third Christmas in this house, and even Baby’s third Christmas. Time, it flies.

Sunday they left for the airport. Usually they fly up and back but this time they drove up the Suburban that we bought from them. And while we had our eyes on a Suburban as our next vehicle, we weren’t in a hurry to buy one… things have changed since I was younger. Before when I wanted a car, I didn’t think it through and before I had a chance to, I was at a dealership buying the car I wanted. To put this in perspective, by the time I was 30, I was on my ninth car. Then kids. Kids didn’t only stop my car buying ways—which needed to happen—they also took us in the van direction. And when we bought the van, we had dealt with enough dealerships to do things our way. We knew what we wanted and how much we wanted to spend. And using USAA’s car buying prices, we knew what deal we wanted. From the comfort of home, we called two dealerships and told them what we wanted and offered a purchase price. One dealership turned us down; the other accepted. All the paperwork was prepared before we arrived, and all that was needed were signatures. Easy peasy.

That was almost six years ago. And while it was easy, it’s still a dreaded process. This time we avoided it completely. Brian’s dad gets a new Suburban every few years. And this was a year he was upgrading from his 2015. Lucky for us, he had the exact Suburban (and more—a heated steering wheel even) that we wanted. And thankfully, the better-looking large rims. I’ll never let go of the ’90s car styles. We were planning on buying a Suburban as our next vehicle anyway… it can fit everyone and an additional person, and the cargo space in the back is much needed. Plus, we can tow a trailer, which we eventually plan on getting. Sometimes things just work out. And we bought it from him for a price we wouldn’t have found anywhere else. When we were down in August, the van brakes needed to be replaced so we drove the Suburban around while the van was in the shop. We were able to test-drive our future car without realizing it would be ours soon… good thing we liked the sucker.

We scored with buying it from Brian’s dad, avoiding a dealership all together.

Two awful dealership experiences, for fun:

  1. When we first decided to go the van route, we went to a few dealerships to check some out. We did the Honda dealership because that’s the van to look at. And while I love Hondas—I’ve had two Civics—I didn’t like the van. I didn’t love how it looked. And if I was going to drive a damn van, it was going to be one I liked the looks of. Next door was a Kia dealership. I’m not the biggest fan of cheaper cars; I think you get what you pay for. But I did like the price, and I liked the looks of the Kia vans way more than the Hondas. We spent about an hour there, checking out a few vans. The number one thing I wanted in a van, aside from looks, was automatic doors. They didn’t have one on the lot with automatic doors. So they tried to convince me I didn’t need them. No, dude, I need them much like you need commission. But he didn’t get this. We thanked them and left after about an hour, not having planned on buying anything that day anyway and making this clear. A few days later, the sales guy calls Brian almost yelling at him for not buying and leading him on… because this is how you get a customer to come back and buy from you.
  2. Back in my Toyota days I wanted a 4WD Tacoma. My dad and I went to a Toyota dealership to test drive a few, and get a feel for what I wanted. I remember it was a busy day at the dealership. I was stuck with an old white dude sales guy, who clearly had no use for women. I didn’t like him from the start but wasn’t planning on buying that day anyway, so whatever. I rolled with him. My dad waited inside while the sales guy and I walked to the truck of my dreams. We get in, he says it doesn’t start. Okay, sure, whatever. Let’s find another one. They didn’t have another one in their massive dealership, he says. He suggested we test drive another truck, one that happened to be cheaper and wasn’t 4WD. I guess my 18-year-old self made him think I wasn’t serious. And, I wasn’t a man. (I don’t normally pull the woman card, but when you deal with these type of men, you know. Even at a young age.) We get in and it starts after he waves a magical key over a reader. Dude failed to wave this magical key over the reader in the truck I wanted to test drive. I guess he thought I wouldn’t notice this. By now, I know he’s an ass and wanted to leave. But then I realized I had the upper hand. If I wasted his time, he’d have less time screwing over another customer. My dad was on the same page and we had all day. So I played the car buying game. In the guy’s office, marking up papers with numbers, him leaving to the back room coming back with another offer, over and over. Eventually he thought he had the deal, I said thanks but I changed my mind. Old dude wasn’t pleased. He thought he was pulling a fast one over me. We left after a few hours. I then went to another dealership and got the exact 4WD Tacoma I wanted. If that happened to me now, I’d be more direct and call him out. None of the passive aggressive nonsense my dad and I pulled but it sure felt great at the time.

Tree decoration. We didn’t get to decorate the tree while Bob, Tara, and Courtney were here. It was still a bit wet from the rain outside. Brian put a fan on it in the garage and it was ready for decorations Sunday evening. I think I’m moving back to white lights next year. I’ve tried to do the color lights for the past few years and I’m just not a fan on the tree. Outside, sure. Brian is the tree straightener and lights guy; the kiddos are the ornament decorators; and I finish up with the rest of the ornaments when they get bored and put the tree skirt on. Most of the ornaments are kid-height, and I’m cool with this. Five years ago, I would have fixed them. Now, eh, I roll with whatever.

Bloody nose Tuesday. Brian takes the big kiddos to their class Tuesday mornings before heading into work. I pick them up. This Tuesday I got a call around 11am saying that Blaise had a bloody nose and it wasn’t stopping. This is common. He gets bloody noses all the time, as did Brian when he was a kid (and even still). It’s the cold, dry days. Brian is closer to their class so he went to grab Blaise. Laine stayed for the rest of class. The little ones and I left home—where Saige was drawing slugs—for Red Robin where we met Brian and Blaise. His nose was fine by then. We ate lunch and then killed time at Costco before having to pick up Laine.

It’s always interesting being out with the kiddos during school hours. They’re at an age now where people look at them with a I wonder why they aren’t in school, they don’t look sick look. And if you’re really lucky, the super curious ones stop and ask the kiddos how old they are and what grade they’re in. Then you see the other parents with school-aged kiddos and kind of feel this sense of camaraderie because you both know you are giving a big eff you to traditional schooling, and you know the looks are judging you as one of those weird homeschoolers. I’m not paranoid. Really. It’s a common feeling when you go out and about during the weekdays with a gang of kids. Or not during school hours, I feel the they must be Mormon thoughts. Haha. We live in a major two and done area. Unless you have two of the same gender and then it’s okay to have a third, preferably if it’s the opposite gender. People are weird.

Speaking of eff you, Comcast. I’m actually not a Comcast hater. I mean, I don’t love them, but I’ve always had decent service with them. And while annoying to deal with, I call each time our package deal is up and get another one. We’re paying $79.99/month for internet and cable now, not too shabby. But when we moved, somehow we ended up setting up the account in my name instead of Brian’s like it was in the last place. And the Brian account used my email address because I’m the bill payer in the relationship. When they set up the new account under my name, they wouldn’t let me use my email address since it was linked to another account. For some reason, they wouldn’t change the email on the other account since it was dormant, and they wouldn’t override anything. I ended up using my back-up email address which is super annoying because I am usually on auto-pilot with my usernames and passwords. So when I had to login to Comcast it became a cluster. I ended up getting annoyed and making my password effcomcast. It didn’t allow for fuckcomcast. To make a long story longer, I ended up getting locked out of my account because I was trying to login with the wrong email. Brian needed to login for the modem setup. (Why don’t people buy their own modems?! It’s such a rip-off to pay monthly rental fee to Comcast.) He ended up having to call and well, the customer service representative was not amused with my password. I’m sure they’ve seen worse… it’s Comcast after all. I was amused at his lack of amusement.

More Comcast because why not? When I called in November to get a package deal again, the customer service representative was super nice. We were chatting about HBO and how I don’t need it until 2019 since Game of Thrones won’t be on until then. Although, now that I think about it, we’ll get HBO in March for Silicon Valley and then cancel again after. Such a great show. Anyway, she was talking shows she watches and said she’s in a major Shameless binge. We did the Shameless binge thing until Season 5 when Brian pointed this out: all the male characters have something outside of their storyline. Like Frank making beer in the basement. But all the female characters, their storylines mostly revolve around man problems. We watched a few episodes after Brian pointed this out and we couldn’t get past it.

I’m really rambling. Problem with working toward solitude status, I only have myself to ramble with.

We picked up Laine and stopped at Target on the way home. I didn’t know what the kiddos really wanted for Christmas. To get answers, I had them peruse the aisles so I could take pictures of things they wanted. That was super helpful.

Evans Creek. We made plans to meet friends at Evans Creek for a cold day of play. As usual when going there, we stop at the perfect climbing tree before walking on the trails. This time, as the six kiddos were playing on the tree, a fellow park-goer who was walking her dog complimented our kiddos playing on the tree and suggested we take pictures of them climbing. She said she can never get her kids to climb trees or play much outside, or something to that effect. I had already taken a few pictures of the kiddos… to add to the ridiculous amount of pictures I already have of them climbing trees.

I’m always amazed at how much people hibernate in the winter. Even on a sunny day—albeit cold—there weren’t any other kiddos there. It was during school time but no little ones either. This is pretty common, even at playgrounds in the winter. I guess this explains the common posts on the local parenting forums asking What does everyone do with their kids during the day when it’s cold and wet outside? And there are several answers about indoor places. I appreciate indoor places, I just don’t appreciate crowds. Or germs. And I’m a believer in the kiddos needing to be outside each day, regardless of weather. There’s just something about being outside, it makes the day better.

School pictures. The kiddos’ school up the street—where the go Mondays and Wednesdays—has a picture day. This is their first ever school picture day. We actually missed the official picture day because it was on a Thursday and they have another class that day. They did the make-up picture day in November. I realize this is useless information, like much of my ramble, but it’ll help me in a few years when I try to remember why we’ll get our pictures back in October next time instead of December. I reference my rambles for memory sake.

LEGO Police Station. Back when Blaise first got into LEGOs, I had no idea they release new sets every so often. So when we bought him a LEGO Police Station a few years ago, I figured we were set with police stations. Wrong. He wanted the newest one, to which we told him, “You already have a LEGO Police Station.” Luckily for him, his big gift from Papa and Wawa was the newest police station. After he put it together (in about an hour), he wanted to make a video showing Papa and Wawa the final product. He likes to watch LEGO YouTube videos, and often asks us to record his LEGO stuff. He sometimes ends with subscribe to my channel even though he doesn’t have a channel. Haha. This is probably his best LEGO video yet. Ignore the poor camera work. I usually have Brian record but he wasn’t home.

And a picture. Even Baby got in on the LEGO action before she passed out.

A little winter art. I’m not keeping up on my do more art with the kids plan. So this day I busted out the cotton balls and we made snowmen. Laine is our biggest art fan. The little ones lost interest in the snowmen and did their own art thing, and Blaise had no interest at all. He was up doing LEGOs. Of course he was.

Cold trail. I’ve been majorly slacking on my trail usage. Ever since I had that incident with three off-leash dogs in August, I haven’t been going as much. I’m slightly bitter about the off-leash country folk out here in Carnation. In late August I was walking Melvin around 5:30am. On part of the trail where it curves, three large dogs came running up to us. No owner in sight. Two of them circled Mel and me, and were harassing us. Nothing mean but super bothersome. Finally the owner walked around the corner, called his dogs, and they went to him. Great, we were in the clear. I continued on the trail. The two dogs came back to us and poor Mel freaked out and went between my legs. Mel was stuck with two dogs on either side of him. I reached down and picked him up, and one of the dogs jumped at Mel in my arms. (Maybe I shouldn’t have picked him up. I don’t know. I had never been in this situation.) Now, I have never, ever hurt any animal. I don’t even kill spiders. I kicked that dog away and suggested the owner get a leash. He won’t. I know this. I have no problem with off-leash dogs if they are so well trained they act like they’re on a leash around others. But around here, there are several people who walk with their dogs off-leash who should not be off-leash. Like the one lady who runs with her large dogs about 50 feet in front of her. And she never picks up after them. And sure, some off-leash dogs may be friendly. But the leash is there for the other dogs, like Mel. He’s not mean but he doesn’t want a random dog in his face and more than half of the time, off-leash dogs come up to Mel to say hello. He doesn’t want to say hello.

There are times I miss Issaquah. This is one of them. I’m anxious for Carnation to grow and turn into a smaller-scale version of Issaquah. I think the local old timers would fall over dead if that happens… rather, when that happens. It will. Look at the housing prices in Issaquah and Redmond. Our house, more than double the price 20 minutes away… double being mid-million. Insanity.

I digress. When I have hit the trails, I walk away from town like I did this day. My problem with that, another country thing, is down on the right side of the trail there is private property where they shoot. Apparently it’s legal in unincorporated King County to shoot on private property. Fine, whatever. So it’s either get shot or attacked by dogs. Okay, it’s not that dire but I haven’t been much up for walking on the trails. Instead, I’ve been walking Mel around the neighborhoods, which is actually quite fun this time of the year. We go around 7pm when it’s dark and right before people tend to close up their blinds. I get to be that nosy person sneaking peeks inside to see how people live. Not staged houses on the market, real houses. Three common take-aways: 1. People have a ton of crap. 2. Kitchen counters are messy, and used for anything and everything. 3. There are always more TVs on than off. It’s enlightening. And it makes me want to come home and clean our already sparse house.

Slime! This has become such an easy time killer. Glue, water, baking soda, and contact solution. Easy peasy. It entertains the kiddos for over an hour.

A Sassy Brassy Holiday. The Seattle Men’s Chorus, one of my annual Christmas traditions. I’ve gone every year we’ve lived up here except the year Blaise was born. This year marked 11 years of attending. I still love going and will continue, but it’s not the same. They have a new artistic director who started last year. And, well, he’s slightly into himself. He started the show last year introducing himself and going on and on about his back story… and on and on. Eventually he let the guys sing. And then this year, more me me me when he talked. The rest of the show wasn’t the same. It’s not as fun as it used to be. There used to be more fun skits around the songs… and even the sing-along this year. Dreadful. He selected Gloria in Excelsis Deo. Seriously. I’m not an artistic director by any means so maybe I’m missing out on some industry knowledge but as a patron, maybe pick an upbeat, happy song where people already know the lyrics. Just my two cents.

The best song was after they ended and everyone applauded, and then he said they had one more song and asked everyone to record and post on social media to spread the word. I feel like it would have been false advertising had I posted it anywhere. It’s what the rest of the show should have been more like. It’s what it used to be like. I miss the old artistic director. Maybe the new guy will get better or I’ll get less picky. Either way, I’ll be back in December 2018.

The video he asked everyone to record for sharing (now that the show ended).

Second and University. There used to be a building where the crane is… I worked there. Things are changing in Seattle. Crazy.

Redmond Town Center. Part of the holiday festivities included an afternoon at Redmond Town Center. We visited Santa, rode the carousel, played with the outdoor music area, grabbed a treat at Starubucks, and finished up with tossing coins into the water fountain. I don’t get this but it happens… and older woman came over and started taking pictures of the kiddos while they were sitting in front of the fireplace. Bonus: she even asked, “Are they all yours?”

Hulk Saige. This is how Saige finishes up her art projects these days.

Cedar River Watershed. This place is underused. There is an education center the kiddos love… there are vacuum tubes with ping pong balls. We made plans to meet a friend up there on a Thursday. The kiddos didn’t have their Thursday outdoor class in December so we had an extra day each week to screw around… the Watershed it was. We hadn’t been up there in a while. I think we’ve spent over three hours there in the past, the kiddos playing with those balls the entire time. After the education center, we walked down to Rattlesnake Lake and the kiddos played on the tree stumps. It was super cold and windy so we only lasted about a half-hour before we decided to make our way back up to the education center. We stopped at the fire pit and the kiddos played there a while. It was much less windy up there. The kiddos eventually got hungry so we left for home and pizza.

Gadgeteer kiddos. This program. It’s such a great program for kiddos. The kiddos have selected projects to work on each week in preparation for a Maker Faire in April. Laine decided to make a lightsaber and Blaise a remote control truck. Brian takes them each week so I only hear the reviews, and some observations from Brian. The reviews are always positive. Blaise and Laine get to use cool tools and learn so many new things each week. All good stuff. Brian’s observations are that several of the other kiddos’ projects are more dad projects under the guise of kiddo projects. He says those kiddos wander about while their dads work on their projects. Perhaps they should have a dad gadgeteer club.

Teeth! I survived the dentist with all four kiddos. This was Baby’s first time going… all kiddos had positive reports.

Lazy days of Christmas break. Or maybe it’s called winter break these days? Whatever it is, we had several days where we stayed home. It was a much needed break from our usual, where we’re running around all week… classes, extra-curriculars, friends, errands. We’re always doing something. Doing nothing was nice. Even if that nothing included more iPad and Xbox time than intended. Even Melvin and Moose got in on the doing nothing action.

Kiddo date night. Blaise and Laine wanted to head out and get a few things for each of the siblings, and I had a few last minute things to grab for the stockings. Of course they were hungry so we stopped at Denny’s for a quick (cheap) bite after shopping. They both asked for a scoop of ice cream after their meals and I said fine, to which the waitress brought them full-on ice cream sundaes complete with toppings and whipped cream almost as tall as the glass the sundae came in. She was nice. We hit the Dollar Tree after since Laine really wanted a Santa hat and we couldn’t find one at any of the stores we had been. The Dollar Tree had one, and I had a happy Laine. One of the added benefits of not doing the Santa thing is that they can help pick out what they get in their stockings. Makes my life easy.

Farm play. The Friday before Christmas we went to the farm where Saige’s preschool is held. We wanted her to get used to being there and have Blaise and Laine show her around the wooded parts. It was going swimmingly until I started to get nauseous… we left for home and that was it for me until Christmas.

The old ‘hood. We ended December hanging out with our friends at their place in our old neighborhood. It’s always fun hanging with them; we sure miss them as neighbors. We played a while and ended up staying for dinner before leaving in time to get Blaise and Laine home to go see Star Wars with Brian.

And that was December. On to 2018 and becoming a hermit.

One comment

  1. Wonderful to see a bit of your family life! Seems fun 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: